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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8201/the-japanese-tighten-their-belts/

The Japanese tighten their belts

June 15, 2008 by

I didn’t realize that Japan had enacted a law that will certainly improve it’s economic malaise:

Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must measure the waistlines of Japanese people ages 40 to 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the population.

Those exceeding government limits — 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are similar to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks — and suffering from a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months. (The Seattle Times)

Re-education?!? Isn’t that how Pol Pot reduced Cambodian waistlines?

I’m aghast; the reporter is impressed: Japan, a country not known for its overweight people, has undertaken one of the most ambitious campaigns ever by a nation to slim down its citizenry.

Without a doubt, similar legislation will be introduced in the US within the year. Time to bid adieu to the NFL.


Paul June 15, 2008 at 9:37 pm

Japan is not a free country. Then again, freedom is wasted on the Japanese anyway.

Brandon June 15, 2008 at 10:01 pm

Freedom is wasted on no one.

Mike June 15, 2008 at 10:02 pm

I’m confused… does the 56 million waistlines represent 44% of the waistlines considered as separate units or 44% of the overall girth of the Japanese populace?

One would think that carefully delineating such a distinction is essential to the goals of social control, but I don’t know, you tell me.

BlackSheep June 15, 2008 at 11:39 pm

Mike, I’m sure he means people from 40 to 74 represent 44% of the population.

Even for those that see a role of government for these things, I’m not sure how they justify it being compulsory and then the stalking of people…
Weird stuff. I wonder how success they will have… And Japanese being so social constrained, I wonder how upset they’ll feel about this…

Libertas est Veritas June 16, 2008 at 1:38 am

How exactly are waistlines supposed to be good indicators of health? It is inferior even to using BMI. I mean, one should avoid training one’s abdominal muscles for fear of being sent to a reeducation camp? For some reason, politicians are under the impression that as long as you are skinny, you must be in good physical condition…

Won’t anyone think of the sumo wrestlers!?!?!

Curt Howland June 16, 2008 at 7:16 am

As for Sumo and American Football, just as there is a loop-hole allowing a sword to be carried in public for Sumo, and of course the anemic little revolvers carried by the Japanese police, I’m sure there will be “allowances” made for “those who require extra weight in the performance of their official duties.”

fundamentalist June 16, 2008 at 9:41 am

The Japanese respond to price inflation just like everyone else has in history. Check out this story from the Bloomberg site:

“June 16 (Bloomberg) — Glassware and porcelain sales shot up more than 30 percent last month at the downtown Tokyo housewares store Kenji Wako manages. “People wanted to get a bargain before prices went up,” he says.”

“Japan, a nation that has seen mostly falling prices for years, is experiencing something it isn’t used to: a “buy now” psychology that seems to be taking hold among consumers as record oil and food costs fuel inflation expectations.”

Fephisto June 16, 2008 at 10:12 am

This is the same country that’s been trying Keynesianism to the ground and has a very….very large debt.

banker June 16, 2008 at 10:55 am

Well, according to a recent spate of articles I have seen, height is a good indicator of health and well being. Americans have been getting shorter/stagnating and wider, while Europeans are getting taller. Actually, Japanese are quickly catching up to Americans in height. Many of the school kids are taller than me…

Alain June 16, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Can’t wait for the new Department of Homeland Waist Management to spring up here…

TokyoTom June 16, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Jim, this legislation relates only government-funded medical check ups – which are entirely voluntary as far as indivuduals go (though of course an employer might legitimately insist that employees get check ups).

I’m surprised that you failed to some of the points referred to toward the end of the article:

- “Some experts say the government’s real goal is to shift health-care costs onto the private sector,” by imposing penalties in terms of reduced government contributions to such check ups. Would that be such a bad thing?

- A significant factor in overweight males is smoking, which until fairly recently was a government monopoly.

Japanese TV last night ran a program showing how grossly overweight many Americans are, illustrating portion sizes and caloric intake (for the overweight, these are multiples of the average Japanese diet), and trotting out rather exaggerated statistics from the Surgeon General that over 300,000 deaths per year are attributable to being overweight. According to NIH statistics, about one-third of American adults (70+ million people) are obese (BMI of 30+), and two-thirds are overweight (BMI of 25+). Although the number of porky Japanese is noticeably growing, they still can’t really hold a candle to this.

My own view is that we are much more likely to see compulsory action taken with respect to obesity in the US than in Japan – just like we have a wave of intrusive smoking bans. Indeed such action has already started: Congress is considering a national ban on selling candy, junk food and sugary sodas in school vending machines and cafeterias, Chicago has banned restaurants from using trans fats, a Republican Mississippi legislator recently proposed banning the obese from restaurants (as an attention-getting measure). And of course we have legislation other opposite way as food and beverage companies fight for control over government: some 20+ states House lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill banning obesity-related lawsuits against restaurants and food manufacturers. More than 20 states already have laws on the books prohibiting consumers for suing food and beverage manufacturers over obseity issues, and the House passed a similar ban in 2006.

Just a little context.

Jim Fedako June 16, 2008 at 10:55 pm


From the article “In Amagasaki, a city in western Japan, officials have moved aggressively to measure waistlines in what the government calls special checkups. The city had to measure at least 65 percent of the 40- to 74-year-olds covered by public health insurance, an “extremely difficult” goal, acknowledged Midori Noguchi, a city official.” (emphasis added.

That’s an odd way to state that this is all voluntary,

Do you really believe the intent of the legislation is to switch the burden of health care? Has government anywhere evert used fines as a means to do anything other than fill its treasury?

And, do you think that the program is not going to increase over time? Remember, smoking was only going to be banned on international flights. Trust them. Now the bar hounds in Ohio cannot smoke inside anymore.

Also, by your logic, minimum wage laws are never an issue since they are imposed on businesses and not the individual.

There are two travesties here: One, that some folks accept this type of legislation; Two, that some folks think it really isn’t too intrusive … as if it may be good.

TokyoTom June 17, 2008 at 5:13 am

Jim, you’re not reading carefully enough.

- The government isn’t imposing fines but threatening penalties in the form of withdrawing funding – like the way the federal government, through highway funds allocations, gets the various states to agree on speed limits and drinking ages.

Here, the national government is imposing requirements on the cities and corporations that receive government healthcare funds to support their medical check-up programs, not on individuals, from whom the programs are a freebee.

That the goal is difficult due to the freedom of citizens not to take health tests is perhaps an indication that the government is, indeed, trying to cut back on its contribution to municipal and corporate health expenditures – which would be a GOOD thing, wouldn’t it (even if compelled by various budgetary problems)?

- “Also, by your logic, minimum wage laws are never an issue since they are imposed on businesses and not the individual.” Please don’t put strawmen in my mouth. I never said I was in favor of socialized medicine, minimum wage laws, or anti-smoking bans, for that matter. Certainly the government health system generally is largely compulsory and supplants and distorts private healthcare and patient decisions – that is not only both obvious and undesirable, but beside the point of the latest changes – which do not extend further compulsion to patients.

- “There are two travesties here: One, that some folks accept this type of legislation; Two, that some folks think it really isn’t too intrusive … as if it may be good.” What did I say to deserve this rich diet of strawmen and scorn? Do you not wish to receive comments discussing nuance, or do you simply require that nuance first be prefaced with an express statement broadly disavowing whatever government program you happen to be criticizing?

Let me know, so perhaps I can avoid causing – or instigating – further travesties.

Jim Fedako June 17, 2008 at 7:46 am


Did I misread this?

“In Amagasaki, a city in western Japan, officials have moved aggressively to measure waistlines in what the government calls special checkups. The city had to measure at least 65 percent of the 40- to 74-year-olds covered by public health insurance, an “extremely difficult” goal, acknowledged Midori Noguchi, a city official.” (emphasis added.)

This is voluntary?

So, you believe that when folks opt-out, local governments won’t impose a penalty on the individual? Don’t the state regularly give in to the feds when dollars are on the line? And, doesn’t that always mean less individual liberty.

Back to rhetoric …

Nothing like using the strawman-strawman argument — where one indicts another of employing a strawman. While being a logical falacy, it can be an effective maneuver.

By way of example: I never even implied these statements … “Please don’t put strawmen in my mouth. I never said I was in favor of socialized medicine, minimum wage laws, or anti-smoking bans, for that matter.” … Yet, you attribute them to me.

Regardless, I see the issue as this: In this instance, we (you and I) see things through a very different filter.

Me: all government actions are pernicious regardless of how benign they appear.

You: At the risk of employing a strawman-strawman-strawman ;-), you view this government action to be beneficial, a positive turn.

I ask: If the goal is to reduce government payments toward employee healthcare, isn’t there a less intrusive means to that end? How about simply ending government-run healthcare? Seems reasonable. And, it promotes liberty.

TokyoTom June 18, 2008 at 3:29 am

Jim, again, I am not supporting Japan’s national health program generally – in response to your final question (where you make explicit what I called previously a strawman).

And yes, your rhetoric about travesties in connection with my parsing the story was an implict strawman, that I accept “this type of legislation” or don’t think it too instrusive, though all that I was doing was questioning where you had accurately read the story.

Unless you have some other source of information outside of the piece by the NYT reporter, my observation stands – that the government isn’t compelling anybody, but merely threatening to cut off funding for annual health checkups unless they include a waist measurement. This may have a coercive effect, particularly at the corporate level (as a company can require that its employees comply with healthcare rules as a part of employment conditions), but otherwise (as far as I know) annual checkups have been free and not mandatory.

Finally, I do not “view this government action to be beneficial, a positive turn;” rather, I simply muse whether it might be, if the effect is to cut government funding of health care or to lead corporations to drop out of government funded annual checkups.

Brad June 18, 2008 at 10:08 am


Your parelleling with corporate compliance is out of tune due to the fact that you forget that “cutting off government subsidy” is cutting off the taxes coercively taken in the first place, a luxury corporations don’t have (unless they have a cozy quid pro quo with State). While there may be a bit of freedom between the vise’s jaws now, it’s always closing. One jaw is the ability to tax, the other jaw is a desire to control behavior. And when they’ve given themselves the ability to tax as they please, they will eventually be able to ordain behavior completely. Once they’re collecting all your labor in taxes, you have to dance to their drum beat.

Simply put, we have a State to protect our life and property. In the course of doing same, taxes must be collected and humans have to direct what is to be protected and they are paid. But at some point, people allow their own prejudices and superstitions to invade the halls of power created for protection. They then go on an offensive to control people’s behaviors. Taxes then go WAY up to fund all these programs, and when they fail, they set about controlling behaviors other ways; regulating choices off the shelves, penalties, and withholding the very money coerced from you in the first place unless you do as you are told.

Basically, what am I supposed to do after the US government implements socialist healthcare funded by my labor then dictate how it is to spent and the behaviors I must exhibit to get a share of “state money”? THAT’S what we are headed for. This article is merely a blueprint, albeit offshore, but a sign nonetheless. It’s the underlying logic at hand here. The only difference is the time in between when my personal pocketbook (and the labor behind it) becomes one and the same with the public treasury so that my personal behaviors are seen as a selfish attack on said treasury, and force used against me to elicit behavioral change is considered right and proper.

From each according to their ability, to each according to their need – as long as they do as they are told. Force meets mothering meets more force meets abondonment. But the labor is still expected flow into the treasury even if you get nothing out. There’s a word for that but it escapes me at the moment.

And all this MAY be feverish sky is falling on my part, but the accrual basis national debt of the US government alone is $53 TRILLION dollars, which some consider to be under estimated, and doesn’t include all the underfunded State level welfare programs and underfunded “private” programs of our large corporations, guaranteed by the US government. When all our unfunded transfers come home to roost, taxes will either have to go up into the stratosphere or “demand” will have to go way down, which will be the part about behavioral control. The net result will likely be 60-70% tax rates (composite of all levels) and strict expectations to get a share of what has been coerced.

And we’ll all end up dead anyway.

TokyoTom June 18, 2008 at 11:16 pm

Brad, thanks for your comments. Other than puzzlement at why you directed them to me, I agree with you completely.

By the way, the Japanese certainly are rather sheep-like in their behavior and they’ve been fleeced by the LDP and bossed around by bureaucrats for centuries, and stilll accept rather placidly the past two decades of obvious economic mismanagment. Things are changing a bit, as urban residents are becoming more restless, so much so that even though Koizumi reformed the LDP in order not to lose the urban vote, the upper chamber in the Japanese parliament is now for the first time controlled by the DJP.

Maybe I should blog a bit on some of the nonsense that happens here – it’s a real travesty, to borrow a good expression from Jim.

Chris Rugh November 22, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Provide healthcare. Pony up and do it. Every dollar you spend on employee healthcare is equal to $10 in pay in their minds. It say’s that you’re investing in their health and safety

Health Fare November 22, 2009 at 8:35 pm

So workers can just spend their own salaries, and multiply their pay by 10? No need for an employer to do it.

patek watches December 19, 2010 at 8:23 am

Speaking frankly, you are absolutely right.

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